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Why you need to be in LA to pursue TV writing

Updated: Feb 23

It might not be obvious at first. I mean, there are screenwriters based all over the world, right?


Los Angeles: The TV writing hub

But there are not TV writers based all over the world. In fact, when it comes to American TV writing, writers are really only based in LA and New York City.


There isn’t much choice. But even New York City gets knocked off the list pretty quickly once you realize what exactly is being written there.


The fact is there are hundreds of TV shows being written in Los Angeles, and only a handful being written in other cities.


So, why does this matter?


Why can’t you break into TV writing in other cities and then move to Los Angeles when the opportunity presents itself?


And what about the shift to remote work, which many TV writers’ rooms have adopted?


In this post, I want to run through the reasons why, if you’re an up-and-comer and you want to make it into one of those claustrophobic TV writers’ rooms and start making money in TV writing, you need to be in LA.


There are TV and film productions happening all over the country. Why can’t I move to one of those?


This is true. There are huge productions happening all the time across the US and Canada – New York City, New Orleans, New Mexico, Atlanta, Vancouver, and Toronto, just to name a few.


But even when shows are being produced in those cities, the writing of American TV is still happening in one of two cities – New York and LA. First, let’s take a look at New York.


New York City has a bunch of late night talk shows, and those shows are written there as well.

New York City

But you can count those shows on one hand. And since there are about 10-12 writing jobs available per show, the odds are not on your side. Jobs at these shows are hard to come by because there are so few of them.


And when it comes to narrative TV writing (meaning not late talk shows), there are maybe one or two.


In addition, if you’re working in production in one of these shows in any of these cities, you may be doing a great job. But you’re not meeting writers.


You’re meeting the production crew. And that’s probably not going to help get you into the writers’ room. Because networking and knowing writers is how you get into the writers’ room.


Aren't There Online TV Writing Jobs Now?


Since COVID, many TV shows have adopted Zoom rooms, meaning the writers will meet over Zoom and have an online writers’ room.


Though, even now, many TV writers’ rooms are coming back in person, or adopting a hybrid model.


But really, we’re jumping ahead, because first you have to meet the people who will connect you with the showrunner who’s hiring in order to get that job in the first place. And those people live in Los Angeles.


The main key to breaking into TV writing is networking. And the people you need to network with live in Los Angeles.


Living in Los Angeles is Networking


I moved here soon after college, knowing no one in the entertainment industry or any TV writers. And yet, as soon as I moved here, I was meeting people in entertainment.


One of my roommates was a stand-up comedian, another was an agent at a huge agency.


My neighbors right now are performers, producers, and actors. Because Los Angeles is such a major hub for entertainment, you’re bound to meet people and expand your network just by being here.


In addition, if you’re outside of LA and somehow make the connection to a production coordinator who could hire you as a PA or writers' assistant, you have to put yourself in their position.


Are they going to hire the person who promises they’re going to move to LA as soon as they get the job?


Or are they going to go with any of the dozens of other resumes of people who live a twenty minute drive away from the studio?


By being in LA, close to where TV writing is happening, you are putting yourself in the mix in ways that you simply cannot in other cities.


I’m Not Ready to Move. Can I Pursue TV Writing If I'm Not in LA?


Moving to any city is not easy. And moving to the crazy expensive shit show that is Los Angeles is one of the harder moves you can make.


So, if you’re not ready to move yet, there are certainly things you can do. First of all, you can work on your writing. There are plenty of great resources online to improve your TV writing.


Check out scripts from your favorite shows. Look at how they format, look at their structure.


Submit to competitions and get feedback. (But be wary, some competitions are money grabs.) Submit to workshops that can greatly help you get your foot in the door as a TV writer.


You can even network as much as you can online, and prepare for your eventual move.


LA is (unfortunately) the center of TV writing


LA is a weird ass city. There’s no doubt about it. But moving here puts you in the mix like no other city.


There are opportunities and chance encounters that happen here that can’t happen anywhere else. So, if you’re serious about being a TV writer, this is the move.


And I apologize for that.

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Hello!

I'm Anton, a TV writer and author of Breaking Into TV Writing, a book about the business of TV writing and how to get your foot in the door.

 

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